Written by Adam Kline
At this year’s Comic-Con, Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, announced some of the films and shows that will make up Phases 5 and 6 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). With that, he also somewhat unceremoniously announced that Phase 4 will end this year with the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 11). It was unexpected to discover that the current phase of Marvel movies and Disney+ series is coming to an end so soon. But it also made sense.
There has been much discussion about some of the disappointments throughout Phase 4. Several of the movies and shows were revealed to be stand-alone stories, and every time fans expected an overarching narrative or thematic through-line to appear, they were left wanting.
When WandaVision was released in January 2021, there was viral speculation about the possibility of the X-Men merging with the MCU. With the release of Black Widow, and later Hawkeye, some loose threads were brought together and new characters were introduced. The Loki series gave us a glimpse of Kang the Conqueror, the new big bad guy—or so it seemed. And then this summer, when Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness came to theatres, there was the expectation that the film would carry a lot of exposition, explaining where all this was headed. But that wasn’t the case.
Some of these new stories and characters were meaningful, but some of them seemed aimless or unnecessary. Was it our fault, as fans, to expect a clear through-line after Avengers: Endgame? Should we have spent less time speculating what it all meant and where it was all going? Probably. But now that Feige has announced the end of Phase 4, one thing is clear: everything we’ve experienced and consumed these past two years was a transition. And transitions can be hard.
When one chapter ends and another begins, it’s never as simple as turning the page. When the seasons change from spring to summer or summer to fall, it’s never an abrupt or quick turnover. Changes take time. It’s a patient process that ebbs and flows. When we find our own story transitioning from one phase in life to another, moving from one job to another, entering into a new relationship, or experiencing an evolution in our vocation, it’s never easy and the path isn’t always clear.
We can’t just pick up and move on without a patient, prayerful process of letting go.
Whatever we’re moving on from involves people and places. This is because we have an emotional investment—something we must release and yet can never erase. Whatever we’ve learned, whomever we’ve become, we bring the whole arc of the narrative with us because transitions are not just a change in the story, they’re a change in us. And if we want to see the through-line, first we need to embrace whatever we’re in the midst of.
Towards the end of his book, Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road, author Donald Miller writes this:
So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification. And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around mountains, around friends, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?
When we’re in the midst of a story and are emotionally invested, transitions can catch us off guard and make us want to resist the change. Yet hopefully, with a little bit of hindsight and help from a friend, we can give ourselves over to the next chapter. Even if the last phase ended sooner than expected, maybe over time, the Author’s intent will be realized, and we’ll see that where He’s headed is where we want to be.
Adam Kline is pastor of the Marmora Free Methodist Church and leader of the Intercultural Engagement Team for the Free Methodist Church in Canada. He is deeply passionate about discerning the divine nature through narrative and the complexities of communication across cultures. He loves to sip a freshly roasted dark roast and to spend time in the kitchen both cooking (and eating) his grandmother’s sweet and sour meatloaf.